-----------====================THE KAEZARIAN EYE====================-----------
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- PERILOUS PLOTS PERTURB THE PEACE OF KING AND KESSIA 2
- OTHERWORLDLY BEINGS RETURN TO KESSIA 8
- MAGICKAL EXPERIMENT BEARS FRUIT, POSSESSED TEACUP13
- STRANGE CREATURES STALK MINDSCAPE, LOCAL CITIZEN16
- ICE CASTLE EXPEDITION YIELDS IMPROBABLE SUCCESS18
- NEWS IN BRIEFE28
- UNMASKED: Being One Person's Impressions of the Winter Masque30
- THE FOOD CRITIC REVIEWS: The Crossroads Inn32
- INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN LAURDIA AND THE TALLONEAN EMPIRE, Part 238
- IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Letters and Opinion45
- - An Update on the Activities of the Kessian Medical Society46
- - Health Benefits of Herbal Teas47
- EYE ON KESSIA49
- NEWS OF THE WORLDE50
- AS EYE SEE IT52
- NOTE FROM THE EDITORS54
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Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
PERILOUS PLOTS PERTURB THE PEACE OF KING AND KESSIA
Just this past Storme the city was awhirl with Rumors of a Plot against the Life of our King Vek, to be carried out amidst the usual Hubbub of Malcomb Castle's annual Masque on the 16th Daye of the Month. Everything suggested that the Castle was in the highest State of Alert that night as the Guests turned out to the Affair, and even as all those who Attended diverted themselves with fine Food and Dance and general Merriment, the vigilant Presence of the Royal Guard was evident in the grand Halls and throughout the Passages opened to the Publick for the Masque. As it turned out, the evening passed by in what seemed to be perfect Peace, but these Rumors were merely one set of Currents intertwined among others more obscure and perhaps more Peculiar still.
Such Rumours ultimately came to settle upon the perennially problematic Person of Mister Jurion Tamerlaine, whom Readers will recall not only for his Assault upon a Captain of the Imperial Guard four Yeares past but for his subsequent Virtue in Service to Lord Trantris Esselyon, former Regent of Seton Keep, a Service that should be deemed none the less admirable for its Loyalty towards that once-respected man, though he would ultimately betray his King and be exiled to the Prison-isle of Despair. Since the time of his Lord's disgrace Mister Tamerlaine has been proclaimed an Outlaw of the Empire and thus lived his Life beyond the Sanctuary of city Walls, like other Outlaws subject to the Whims of those who might find Profit in his Persecution.
Despite this Sentence and past Hostilities between Tamerlaine and certain of the Imperial Guard, Tamerlaine has weathered his Fate stoically and has done little that might be construed as any great Wrong against its Citizenry. Some weeks ago in Fraostmonth a Duel was set to be fought between Mister Tamerlaine and Imperial Sergeant Emirikol De'Sainmhini, the Party chiefly responsible for the outrageous Brutality visited upon Tamerlaine some Yeares ago resulting in this latter's Maiming, but as De'Sainmhini never appeared to face his Rival, even this simple Affair of Honor never came to pass. In fact, Mister Tamerlaine had expressed an Interest in Reconciling with his King, with the Hope of being thus Rehabilitated to Society, and had in the week prior to the Masque gone so far towards this Goal as to turn himself into the Custody of the Royal Guard until such time as he might be allowed to plead his Cause before King Vek.
However, as Mister Tamerlaine was awaiting an Audience from within a Cell beneath Malcomb Castle, it chanced that a mysterious Informant came to Captain Elli Sojourner and told her of that sinister Plot against the King which was supposed to wreak such Havoc at the Masque, indicating moreover that Tamerlaine was the culpable Party behind this regicidal Scheme, along with two unnamed Persons alleged to have once belonged to the Household of the former Seton Keep. This Information was carefully Attended to by Captain Sojourner, its being said that this Source was someone whom she trusted Implicitly, and she was most Vigorous in her Warnings to the King and in her Insistence that it were wisest to keep Mister Tamerlaine safely under Lock and Key for the foreseeable Future.
After some Weeks in which Mister Tamerlaine remained confined under most Dire suspicions to the Cells of Malcomb Castle, he was at last granted his Audience with the King at which he might plead his Case regarding not only his Innocence in the Assassination Scheme, but also express the aforementioned Desire to Reconcile with His Majesty and be released from his present status as Outlaw of the Realm. His Majesty's subsequent Deliberations resulted in the Dismissal of the Charges of Regicide against his Person, as it seemed there had been no Evidence to support them, and also Royal Commander Ashinara De'Alera having respectfully submitted his Opinion that there was no Truth to these Allegations. However, the King declined to repeal Tamerlaine's former Sentence, and in fact re-instated that of Exile from the Empire until such time as His Majesty may see fit to revoke it, and since that Daye some Weeks ago Mister Tamerlaine has resided entirely apart from the land of his Birth.
For quite some Time the Identity of the mysterious yet supposedly deeply Trustworthy informant was a Secret to nearly everybody, save for Captain Sojourner herself, who declined to reveal to anyone her Source. But only in the past severall Dayes it has been revealed that this Informant, so unreservedly trusted by Sojourner, was none other than Mister Marian Quinnley, a man perhaps best known lately for his Leadership of the Kessian Medical Society, but also Husband to a Vaenite and, perhaps still more condemningly, the Bearer of a deep and abiding Grudge towards Mister Tamerlaine on account of the enmity Tamerlaine himself bore towards De'Sainmhini, evidently a friend of Quinnley.
The Quinnleys had proven themselves to be far from Friendly towards Mister Tamerlaine in the last few Weeks, with Missus Suede Quinnley going so far as to Demonize him to impressionable Others, though Tamerlaine himself claimed to have been unaware of any great Malice that the Quinnleys might feel towards him until this time. However, such Ill-will may ultimately be judged to have its Foundations in the very obvious Hostility existing between Mister Tamerlaine and Sergeant De'Sainmhini, and was perhaps triggered at least in Part by the aforementioned Duel which the two men were supposed to fight between themselves. Whatever the Reason, Mister Quinnley was sufficiently Exercised by Mister Tamerlaine's continued Existence to come to Captain Sojourner with this entirely Mendacious tale of Tamerlaine's sinister Intentions, thus doing his part to spur on much of the Mischief that has unsettled the Town of late.
Mister Tamerlaine's Guilt in this matter being at last dismissed as rank Tale-mongering, this Reporter has yet reason to definitely believe that there was in fact a Plot against the King's life just as Rumor suggested, only involving nameless Parties quite separate from Mister Tamerlaine. In fact, Tamerlaine himself had got Wind of certain Information regarding such a Scheme, which he had relayed to Commander De'Alera before submitting himself to the Royal Guard to await His Majesty's pleasure. However, given the uneventful Close to which the Masque drew that inauspicious night, it appears that whatever precisely might have been the Nature of this malign Intrigue, it has came to Nought, and all seems peaceful again for the Present.
One final Note on this strange Case involves a certain Fellow by the name of Deacons Oraeis, once Man-servant to the Lady Ange of Indrejan, but lately fallen into Madness. The man in question had been treated at Reklar's Asylum under the Care of the current Head Keeper, Miss Vivien La'Fae, and had been released some few Weeks prior to the advent of the Masque. Mister Oraeis is mentioned here as a Consequence of his being at one time implicated in certain Aspects of the Regicidal Plot, but the only violent Deed he is known to have been involved in recently is not any great Assassination attempt, but rather a common Assault in Brom's Pawn-shop. This Reporter has heard tell that Oraeis has been tracked down and captured by Thief-Taker Demens Urtellik, but has been unable to discover further Details of the Wanted man's Fate.
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Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
*** LATE BREAKING NEWS***
The Eye wishes it to be made known to All and Sundry that just as this Edition was being set for the Presses, news was received that Mister Jurion Tamerlaine had been Summoned to present himself before the King at a Publick Audience this coming Witchespax, the 8th Daye of Sune. Accompanying the Summons was the following Proclamation, bearing the Royal Seal of His Majesty King Vek MacVahl:
~ ~ o ~ ^ ~ o ~ ~
BE IT KNOWN THAT THE FOLLOWING IS THE WORD AND LAW OF HIS MAJESTY
Vek MacVahl I
By the authority of the Crown, the exile laid upon Jurion Tamerlaine as just punishment for his repudiation of the Crown during the events of Ghust, AoD 647 is lifted. As of this,
the second day of Sune, in the Age of Dreams, year 649
Jurion Tamerlaine is hereby given leave to return to Kessia and shall be granted the full rights and protections of a subject of the Kingdom of Kessia and the Kivian Imperium, those rights and protections to be provisional until such time as he swears allegiance to His Majesty, whereupon they shall become permanent.
In His Majesty's Name,
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
OTHERWORLDLY BEINGS RETURN TO KESSIA
On the 24th day of Storme Mister Astolpho Mandel, Emissary of the Greater d'Anjour College of Duvan and present resident of Kemstead, held a publick Summoning on the Grounds of Kemstead Abbey, the Purpose of this Event being to re-establish Contact with that odd and unusually un-hostile otherworldly Race known as the Malvaunt, which, as our Readers shall surely recall, have appeared previously in Kaezar as well as upon the Pages of this very Publication. Being as the Malvaunt summoned here before had shown no Inclinations towards either Violence or Mischief, and seeming instead to be quite Erudite and civilized Beings, Mister Mandel felt that further Conversation with them was surely Merited, and might lead to some interesting exchanges of Information and Understanding.
A small crowd of Persons having assembled to witness the Spectacle that night, Mister Mandel drew the usual circles of Summoning, accompanied by the same Astral incantations that had previously produced a Representative of the Malvauntian Race. This time, however, the Exercise appeared to produce no Effect whatsoever, until, expanding from a sudden unexpected Pin-prick of Light, a brilliant Rift sprang into Existence, and from it there emerged upon the Lawn a pale three-armed Creature, which it seemed had come by its own Decision rather than being compelled there by Mister Mandel's Articulations.
[ The curious creature appearing in this woodblock print regards the viewer with large, pupilless eyes from where it has been reproduced on the page in black ink. Walking on backwards-jointed legs, it has been captured using the centermost of its three long, spindly arms to help prop itself up. Its large, triangluar head is nearly featureless apart from its eyes. There is no indication of a nose or ears of any sort, and the mouth is but a short, fine stroke across the lower part of its face. Despite its austere face and bizarre appearance, a great deal of expression flows from the creature. Its posture, the tilt of its head, and the angle of its eyes might all suggest a sort of curiosity. ]
The Malvaunt, for this was indeed the Creature's identity, stated that it had come as a Consequence of Mister Mandel's being familiar to it from previous Summonings, knowledge of such prior Happenings having come to this individual Malvaunt from the collective Consciousness within which the Minds of these Vedically proficient Beings exist. After answering a few Questions put to it, and demonstrating the way in which its Kind could use their Vedic Powers to produce Effects similar to elemental Arcane Magicks, the Malvaunt offered to allow certain of the Spectators access to its People's collective Conscious.
This was to prove a most extraordinary Experience, not least because a great Number of Malvaunts was required to be present in order to initiate the Connexion with their mental Domain. By the time the Thraelian participants had prepared themselves to be conducted into the mysterious mental Realm of the Collective, they were surrounded by a Circle of over a Dozen of the strange Beings, all of them staring with great Intensity at those whom they had chosen to make that purely Vedical Journey.
[ In this reproduction of an ink drawing, two women and a man stand at the center of a ring of strange-looking three-armed creatures. Among the benches and columns, and not far from an enormous oak tree, the sixteen identical figures look in at the three they've surrounded. While the creatures stare with focus and purpose, the three in the center stand unsteady and vacant-eyed. Heavy, dramatic shading only adds to the tension of the scene.
This print is briefly captioned "Initiation to the Malvaunt Collective." ]
Though to those outside the Circle all was quiet and Still, yet the very first Sensation experienced by those standing within was a strange Thrumming seeming to originate from the depths of their own Psyche, and then even this odd Noise fell into Silence as the collective Conscious loomed out over the Minds of the Participants, overpowering all their Defenses as if they had been mere Cobwebs brushed aside by a giant Hand. There was a vast crackle of formless Sound that obliterated all one's sense of Self and Comprehension, followed by a vast Pandaemonium as it seemed that a thousand thousand Voices were all Clamoring for attention at once, a great screaming Mob of mental Shouts. But then all of this fell together into sudden Comprehensibility, and even as one's own Idea of oneself as a distinct Entity was subsumed under the Weight of countless other Consciousnesses, one became all at once aware of Thoughts and Notions, Dreams and Memories, Concepts and Curiosities beyond counting, and such were the combined Mentalities of the entire Race of Malvaunts.
[ This intricate woodblock features a fantastic cityscape laid out upon one quarter of the page. Viewed from some great height, a cluster of twisting spires and towers rises from the pristine landscape to pierce the sky. Impossibly slender bridges arc between the unusual structures, and on the nearest, indistinct forms can be seen moving to and fro across them. Hatching is used very sparingly to shade the print, lending it a stark, clear appearance. Despite the improbability of the scene, the artist has taken great pains to capture the smallest details in the strange, spiralling architecture, all of which have been reproduced with meticulous care in the print.
The label to this picture reads "The Marvellous Malvauntian Metropolis -- As Revealed by the Minds of Their Collective." ]
Although only three Persons, these being Mister Malo Haithcock, Miss Siovanhe Starsong, and Miss Naisali Dwinddare, were selected by the Malvaunts to enter their Collective, a fourth, Miss Leniri Nandrae, found herself, as she put it, "fallen into" it inadvertantly, evidently due to her own Vedic ability and Affinity for such a Linking. Thus it was that four Thraelians experienced the dizzying One-ness of all these Minds together, sharing the many Sights and Sensations held in common by the Malvaunts, and finally, when it all became too much for Sanity to bear, being dropped from the Collective to land back in the perfect Solitude of one's own individual Mind.
It should be noted that Miss Miriel Re'Ghat, also present for the Summoning, had her own unusual Experience in which she opened her Mind to Iantine, the fallen Goddess of the Veil Lord's Pale, and perhaps through the Influence of the Malvaunts' presence, found herself in mental Contact with that Deity, an Encounter which struck the young Woman most profoundly and resulted very swiftly in her Death from the Goddess's virulent Anger.
Despite that eventual Necessity, after some severall Minutes' time, of severing the Participants' Psyches from the Collective in order to preserve their Reason, the Malvaunts proclaimed themselves agreeably Surprised by the Resiliency of Mind demonstrated by the Peoples of our own World, and before departing claimed to have learned a great deal from the Endeavour. This being the case, it is possible that one Daye our Country may once again play Host to these amazing Beings from so far beyond Thrael.
[ Printed in small bold-faced type at the bottom of the page is the brief credit: "All original Sketches provided by the Courtesy of Miss Leniri Nandrae". ]
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
MAGICKAL EXPERIMENT BEARS FRUIT, POSSESSED TEACUP
After the space of a few Months in which it was assessed what might have gone Awry with the previous experimental Session, mathematical Calculations re-worked, and the whole Investigation readied to start again, the latest foray into Mindscape travel was completed on the 17th Daye of Storme, with unqualified Success.
As the Reader will no doubt recall, the Goal of these Experimentations was to devise some means by which an additional Person might be transported to and through the Mindscape, with the accompaniment of an Illusionist sufficiently skilled in this mode of travel. The Illusionist in this case was none other than Mister Malo Haithcock, former Mages' Council Liaison, while this writer was fortunate enough to serve as the Subject of the Experiment -- and also unfortunate enough to serve as the Subject of the previous one as well, the end result of which was a Headache of truly Magnificent proportions. On this occasion, however, everything went exactly according to plan (if not, in the often pessimistic Subject's case, to Expectation), and it was a span of but a few seconds' passing that brought Illusionist and Subject alike into that strange, aetheric, fragmentary Dimension of the Semi-conscious known as the Mindscape.
Before describing what transpired in the Mindscape itself, a description is merited outlining the Process whereby access to it was achieved by the experimental Subject. The first Step was a relatively simple linking of Minds between Illusionist and Subject, such as nearly any Vedic of a certain level of Practice is readily Capable of. Once this link was established, the Illusionist proceeded to encircle the Subject's Mind with his own, and then, through a sequence of mental Folds producing a singularly Odd if not entirely Discomforting sensation, to condense the Subject's Consciousness into an Idea, complex yet compact, held carefully within his Mind. This Idea was then carried along by the Illusionist himself as he transported himself from this quotidian physical Plane of ours, and re-imagined the both of us within the astonishing Realm of the Mindscape. I will leave aside for the purposes of this Article any discussion of the underlying Vedic and mathematical Principles involved at work in this Process, though Mister Haithcock will doubtless make his Methods available to other Practitioners of the Illusionist Arts so that they too may benefit from the Fruits of this Research.
However, as thrilling as mere passage to the Mindscape was, it turned out that this was not the only interesting Development of the night. This writer had barely begun to get her Bearings (such as they may be within a formless Dimension of pure Thought) when a peculiar Phenomenon began to manifest in the Fabric of the space, looking something like a Prism unfolding out of mid-air. There was time to do nothing more than identify this as an unprecedented Anomaly, when the prismatic Disturbance opened up, and out of it appeared something that neither Person there had expected ever to see again -- a silver-edged Teacup, riddled with swirling Cracks, streaked with blue Paint, lacking a Shadow, and in possession both of spindly Legs and a Mind of its own -- in short, the very same Teacup that had itself been the Subject of an Experiment which the Readership of this Publication doubtless recall from its description in the last Edition.
As one can imagine, there was a certain sense of Befuddlement felt at the entirely unexpected Re-appearance of this object, not only due to the fact of its being quite mysteriously and unprecedentedly in the Mindscape, but also because it had previously been most indisputably blown to Bits. Despite this seemingly unenviable Fate, the peculiar Teacup now bore no other Injury than the superficial Cracks along its Side and seemed in fact quite well and Energetic; nevertheless, it beggars the Imagination that there should possibly be more than one such cracked, swirled, leggy, shadowless, and animate Teacup in existence, even taking into consideration the odd Tendencies of Kessian reality.
In any case, however it had come to be in this place, it seemed quite Enthusiastic at our presence, and proceeded to dart energetically around the area, chittering and scrabbling and even taking Commands from Mister Haithcock, as if it were a diminutive porcelain Dog. As it finally placed itself immovably upon Mister Haithcock's Shoulder, it seemed clear that it should leave the Mindscape with us, whatever Effects exiting the place might have upon a possessed formerly blown-apart Teacup. With some guidance from Mister Haithcock I succeeded in navigating our expanded Party safely to Kemstead, with none of us seeming the worse for Wear for the Experience -- if returning, in fact, in that baffled and mystified State that is after all the common Condition of life in Kessia.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
STRANGE CREATURES STALK MINDSCAPE, LOCAL CITIZEN
The Mindscape being evidently the Source for all kinds of peculiar Entities of late, the appearance of the Teacup of the previous article was only the latest, if possibly yet the Oddest, Anomaly to manifest inexplicably in that place.
Late in the evening on the 21st Daye of Morde, Mister Ariano Azor'i was with similar Inexplicability loitering within the Mindscape in the comfort of a Sling-chair accompanied by a light Repast, or perhaps only in the Idea of Sling-chair and the Notion of a light Repast, when an entirely different sort of Oddity appeared before him. This came in the form of a young Girl, white-haired, malnourished, and clad shabbily in a worn pink Gown, who wandered in seemingly from Nowhere and proceeded, in the words of Azor'i himself, to stare Daggers at him. This being accounted somewhat unusual even for the Mindscape, Mister Azor'i naturally began to inquire as to how and wherefore the Girl had come to be there, but this to no Avail, for she did nothing more than give a wicked Smile before her Forehead split wide open, and out of her pitiful Corpse crawled the sinister Being pictured below:
[ Reaching over seven feet tall even while hunched forward from the waist, the featureless humanoid shown in this print has elongated arms dangling pendulously toward the ground. Ashen skin stretches over taut muscles, and where the face should be there is nothing visible but a mask with gem-set eye sockets.
The picture has been labelled with the usual wanton alliteration: "The Mysterious Malevolent Mindscape Margol." ]
Bizarre and unexpected as its Appearance was, this was not in fact the first time that such a Creature had been seen, as more than one had previously appeared in Kaezar itself and attempted to wreak the usual sort of Havoc upon the Populace. Known as a Margol, the Thing in question attempts to exert Control over the Mind of Whosoever should be so tempted as to wear the Mask of which its Face consists, and only the strongest of Minds are proof against its insidious Assault. Though the Margol is a being of Thought, yet it had never before been known to appear within the Mindscape and was thought instead to lurk within the Recesses of people's own individual Minds, and indeed had not been seen in the last two-odd Yeares.
This particular Margol seemed to bear a special Grudge against Mister Azor'i, as the Creature ignored his Efforts at Communication in favor of immediately aiming at his Annihilation, as is indeed the sad Wont of so many Creatures that choose to frequent this Province, from Skilks to Trolls and all things in between. Azor'i, realizing that all his Magicks were useless within the realm of pure Thought that he was presently in, fled the Mindscape with all Haste, but the Margol, nothing Daunted, tracked him down with little Effort and renewed its attempts upon Mister Azor'i's life. After another pass through the Mindscape and a frenetic Chase through the darkened streets of Kaezar, Azor'i succeeded not only in killing the Margol but, perhaps most importantly of all, in capturing its Likeness for the Benefit of this Publication and its Readership.
Mister Azor'i reported also that a wayward ice Elemental, of the sort so recently discovered during the Ice Castle Expedition, had been sighted in the Mindscape the week before, which, these seemingly being Entities with far greater Affinity to Arcane than Vedic magicks, is perhaps an even greater Mystery. Nevertheless, the last severall Weeks have proven much less eventful in this way than the first few Months of the Yeare, so if there have been any further unexpected Visitors to the Mindscape, they have kept News of their Travels strictly to themselves.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
ICE CASTLE EXPEDITION YIELDS IMPROBABLE SUCCESS
It was many Yeares past that a young Wizard, new to his Magicks and having only just come to study in Kaezar from his childhood Home in Kemstead, stumbled upon what was perhaps among the strangest Sights he had seen in his young Life up to that point. An unearthly Castle, made all of glistening Ice and locked fast against the Intrusions of nosy Mages, the Edifice captured his Imagination and would fill his Thoughts for Yeares to come, yet never again could he manage to re-trace his Foot-steps to find it once more.
In fact, it eventually assumed so much of the quality of a Dream or fantastic Imagining, that there began to be some Doubt as to whether he had ever seen such a thing at all, nor could the Wizard himself provide much Detail that would aid in relocating the Castle, being unable to recall the Character of the land around it, what kinds of Trees might have been present in its Vicinity, or whether there had in fact been any Trees in the first place, what portion of Kessia it might have been in, or indeed whether it might have been in Kessia at all or in fact somewhere else entirely.
For this reason it seemed but a vain Hope that the Ice Castle should ever be found once more, as indeed it is a difficult Proposition to find again a Thing that has never been actually found in the first place. Nonetheless, such a minor Detail did not prevent this Reporter from accompanying the Wizard in question, Mister Ashinara De'Alera, on any number of Jaunts hither and yon across the Country-side in quest of this elusive Figment, for, this being Kessia, there seemed nothing so Improbable that it might not be somehow Possible regardless.
It was this same persistent Propensity for probably pointless Peregrinations that persuaded Mister De'Alera to assemble a formal Expedition to search for the Castle this past Morde and convinced this Reporter to accompany him as his Second-in-Command, as well as to place an Advertisement in this very Publication, calling for courageous Recruits to attend them on this Perilous and perhaps ultimately profitless Endeavor.
Despite the complete lack of Guarantee of any kind of Success whatsoever, the Evening upon which the Expedition was launched brought out two other Persons to join De'Alera's Party, these being Sir Martaigne Pendeleu and Mister Jurion Tamerlaine. The search began in the Pine Forest near Fenway Fortress, but this Spot yielding no Results and being judged overall an unpromising Locale for the Castle, the small Band soon set off for the High Pyne Weald, to recommence the search there upon the Morrow.
Some short time after their arrival there that night, however, the Party was disturbed by a Loud series of unidentifiable "Garrrumph!" noises and a great deal of vigorous Thrashing about in the under-growth around the Spot where they had chosen to camp, which set everyone's Nerves afire with the anticipation of encountering some dread Beast bent on their Destruction, of the sort one generally finds unavoidable in such Circumstances as these. But their brief Anxieties proved largely unfounded, as the source of the Commotion turned out to be merely a Bog-lurker of immense size but severely limited Ambitions, the which was swiftly routed by a well-placed Kick to the Gut followed up by a resounding Smash to the Head from Sir Pendeleu's own Shield.
[ The print that punctuates the text here is a thrilling scene of mortal combat against a terrifying foe... at least insofar as the woodblock artist could render it so with the use of dramatic angles and shading. Steep walls rise out of the malleable clay ground next to a circular spring, about a horse's length in diameter, which is full of crystal clear water. Thick moss and lichens line the perimeter of the water, a few rocks breaking the green skirt where they rise out of the ground. Winding roots dangle from the walls into the water, greedily seeking sustenance, twisting and spiraling downward. High above, the pines stretch out their branches over the pool. Scattered around the small glen are a tent, a fustian blanket, a dark wood and metal quaich, a spherical stoneware cask, and a handful of salty peanuts about to be trod upon by a massive warty boglurker with goggling eyes.
Also featured in the picture are people recognizable (or not) as Commander Ashinara of the Royal Guard (advanced partway towards the boglurker, and banging flail to shield in what looks to be a limp and tentative motion), Sir Martaigne of House Pendeleu (armored leg raised to deal the boglurker a valiant kick), Outlaw Jurion (sitting on a blanket obviously offering extremely helpful input), and a dapple gray cob gelding (utterly indifferent to it all).
The print bears the simple caption: "The Battle of the Boglurker". ]
The following Daye the same Party, with the addition to their Ranks of Mister Malo Haithcock, combed the length and breadth of the Weald, keeping a watchful Eye for anything that might resemble an Ice Castle or suggest some kind of concealed Approach to any such thing out-of-the-ordinary, but again nothing was found, save a number of Wraiths of extremely dubious Temperament, who were apparently quite put out by having the Fastness of their mountain Demesne violated by a band of wayward Adventurers. Its appearing unlikely that there might be anything so exotic as a Castle concealed in this vicinity, made of Ice or any other Material whatever, it was agreed to disband the Expedition until two Nights thence, allowing an evening's Reprieve in which to enjoy the annual Burning of the Yule Tree upon the Green back in Kaezar.
Upon the evening of the 9th Daye of Morde the same Participants as before re-assembled themselves near Blackfish, but with their Ranks additionally swelled by a number of new Recruits, including among them Ariano Azor'i, Anolisse Thr'eyan, Niall Blackthorne, and Rhiovasta Muircaert. On this night the Expedition turned its Attentions to what seemed the potentially most Promising Locale of the Ayr'Dane Mountains, with their lofty snow-covered Peaks, ice-slick Slopes, and frost-rimed Evergreens that one felt must be exactly the sort of Landscape in which to conceal a long-lost mystical Ice Castle.
However, the first night's Searching of the area offered up nothing more than the usual odd Caves, unusual Statuary, and disagreeable yet perfectly mundane Beasts that one may generally expect to encounter in virtually any Portion of Kessia. But still it was agreed that the Mountains must yet hold Potential, being such a remote Spot and probably filled with any number of hidden-away Places not generally breached by the more casual Traveler, and thus it was agreed to continue the Search there on the the Daye following.
Unfortunately, it was exactly as this most Auspicious point of the Expedition that this Reporter fell most grievously and even more inconveniently Ill, being laid low with Chills and Fever and the most extraordinary Type of Hallucinations which, under more usual Circumstances, would likely have entirely put to Shame any sight one might hope to encounter within the prosaic realms of Reality. But alas, this Reporter's Luck being what it is (which is to say, if not entirely non-existent, then situated well and immovably into the Negative portion of the Spectrum) this next Evening was the one to bring the Expedition that Success for which they had been striving the last severall Dayes, and which certain of the Party had certainly been yearning towards for a much longer Time.
The night's adventuring Party consisting again of those old Faithfuls who had started out the Expedition as well as the newer Arrivals from the night before, they once more began the toilsome Trek up and down the snowy Mountain-sides in quest of their elusive Quarry. However, they had not been at this business too long before Miss Thr'eyan became suddenly taken with the existence of a certain Waterfall, which had certainly existed the night before, and all nights previously as well, and from thence back to at least the beginning of the present Age. Nevertheless, some Novelty about that age-old Cascade set off Alarums in Miss Thr'eyan's Skull, and closer Inspection revealed behind the wall of Water a narrow Passage-way, which upon being traversed brought them through the Cliff-side and opened up before them the Prospect of a magnificent hidden Valley. The sight of the towering Evergreens, the mirror-bright Lake, and the snow-capped Peaks that surrounded them on every side filled those present with a sense of Wonderment and Awe, but most stirring of all was the Glimpse afforded to them of the moonlit Sparkle of slender crystalline Spires, rising in icy Splendor from the dark woods on the far side of the Lake.
[ This illustration shows a mist-filled opening that yawns behind the roaring water of a cataract, leading into an icy granite cliff from atop a trail winding down to the lake below. Off in the distance, slender crystalline spires glisten from within the snow-laden canopy of a forest rising from the far shore of a clear alpine lake nestled in the embrace of cloud-capped mountains.
The caption of the print reads: "First Sight of the Long-Lost Ice Castle". ]
Marvelling at the remote alpine Beauty of their Surroundings, the little Band proceeded through the Vale until at last they stood directly before what seemed to be the Object of their Quest: a hulking granite-cut Structure, overgrown with Saplings, and all of it together encrusted in a heavy layer of Glistening ice which from a Distance had imparted the Impression of a magnificent Castle, but at this close Proximity had taken on more the appearance of a Tomb. The Party stood in a Knot beneath the ominous Mass of the Structure, examining the ponderous Doors that seemed to constitute the only means of Entrance to the place, and they had only just begun a careful Inspection of the Portal and to discuss whether and how the Castle might be entered, when Miss Thr'eyan put an end to such tedious Cogitations by simply flinging wide the Doors with no further Announcement.
Looking within, and then cautiously entering the Shadowy confines of the Barrow, the sight that next confronted the Adventurers was a curious and somewhat Macabre one, for the cavernous Hall contained little within but the sprawled and blackened Skeleton of a Giant, chained fast to an enormous stone Slab. This Skeleton was not only of prodigious Size, far outmatching any Daun, but was dubiously distinguished by a large metal Spike driven through its Rib-cage, a number of Gems set within its Skull, and clutched within one claw-like Hand a rare Glacial Emerald. All of these Items being promptly Liberated from the unappreciative Dead, the Emerald proceeded to let off a strange Mist of frozen Air, and from this Mist materialized what appeared to be a woman, formed entirely of Ice. Again there commenced some manner of Debate as to whether the Elemental should be Spoken with, either to gather Information from it or to explain the obvious Necessity of pillaging its Tomb, or whether it ought simply to be killed Outright in the usual manner of such Expeditions, but in the end it proved a Moot point, as the first action taken by anybody was to Shoot it in the Breast.
[ Jagged shards of ice jut out in random directions to make up the form of the strange entity pictured in this woodblock print. Variegating from a translucent white along its arms, torso, and legs, the ice elemental shades into a deeper hue along the head and back. The eyes appear to be swirling nebulas of mist, and sharpened ice shards take the shape of teeth. Hair is formed from thread-fine strands of frozen ice that cascade down along the elemental's shapely feminine figure. The curvaceous chest of this particular elemental is disfigured by a small wound oozing a trickle of blood.
The print bears the label "The Stricken Elemental." ]
The Elemental being subsequently Dispatched and this small Matter having thus been satisfactorily Dealt with, the Expedition apportioned the Treasure amongst themselves as Reward for their Exertions and filed back out of the Barrow, their Mission now Complete, though nothing within the eerie Tomb could illumine the History of whatever unusual Events had once taken place there. Their progress back up the trail to the Cliff-passage was somewhat Hindered by the appearance of a small Army of Ice Elementals come to avenge their fallen Comrade, but these too were heroically Slain, leaving the Adventurers free to make their Triumphant return to Kaezar, to tell all and Sundry of their amazing Exploits and reassure their fellow Citizens that here in our Country there is, in fact, no Tale too strange or Far-fetched for it yet to be True.
[ Filling a small spit of land, the broad, squat barrow portrayed in the large print at the end of this article appears to have been built from slabs of granite cut from the sheer slope above. Covered in glistening rime, twisted saplings vie with formations of wind-sculpted ice atop the earth-topped burial mound, causing it to appear as a fanciful castle rising from the waters in the soft alpine moonlight. Carved with sigils whose meaning has been lost to the vagaries of time and weather, a massive set of stone doors form the entrance, each covered with a thick layer of ice. Arrayed here in various attitudes of triumph and general ridiculousness are a number of people presumably representing the party of adventurers responsible for locating the castle, each one of them accompanied by a meticulous label.
"A. De'Alera" stands near the massive doors with a gleaming glacial emerald in his hand, a grin on his face. "Sir Pendeleu" stands near him, arms akimbo and grinning. "A. Thr'eyan" is standing before the doors, snow falling down onto her head and shoulders. "J. Tamerlaine" loiters near "N. Blackthorne", his plaid pulled up over his head and shoulders, while the same "Blackthorne" smiles broadly, eyes crossed, with a snowball balanced precariously atop his hat. "R. Muircaert" stands behind those labeled "Tamerlaine" and "Pendeleu", huge heaps of snow in both hands directly above their heads. "M. Haithcock" stands to the side of the group, a black iron spike slung casually over his shoulder. ]
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
NEWS IN BRIEFE
A local woman has undergone an astonishing Metamorphosis since the start of this new Yeare, taking on the Characters of a vile Serpent in Face and Speech. The unfortunate woman in question, Missus Suede Quinnley, who once resembled a Half-elf rather than a Snake, now boasts very large slit-pupiled Eyes and strangely Elongated features, which along with forked Tongue and hissing Speech would seem to indicate the Serpents as her new Next-of-Kin.
[ This woodblock portrait print evidently pictures Suede, a half-elf of Byra lineage with light sun-kissed auburn hair that covers her head in a mass of shining curls. She has large, slit-pupiled eyes, a long nose, long pointed ears and slightly downturned lips from between which a forked tongue flicks out. She appears to be a young adult and is tall with a lithe figure and an ivory complexion. ]
Early on in this Transformation she was heard to claim that slitted Eyes were simply all the Rage in Isola, and she had "got them done" there. However, while it is generally agreed that Isolans are exactly the Sorts to make such a fashion Statement if anyone in the World is, nevertheless one does not yet see any other Persons exhibiting such Features in our Midst, which makes the assertion entirely Unsupportable given the fact that fashion-minded Isolans are evidently among Quesalia's chief Exports. In fact, the Truth has come to light that this Transformation seems to be part and Parcel of the Woman's growing association with the Seeress of the Night, Vaen herself. What shall become of the Zu'Wrathe's former Butcher-woman as she consolidates this newest Allegiance will surely be a matter of some interest as the Yeare continues.
The past Carromario evidently marked a new Collaboration between Leta and the dark Forces of Trost, as Persons across Kessia were suddenly afflicted with all imaginable physical Discomforts similar to the worst of all possible Catarrhs jumbled together with a virulent sort of Rash whose Itch was intense enough to rival the legendary Bite of the Fishbournean Dire Mosquito. It was impossible to say what might have brought about any of the Reactions aside from the cruel Whims of Leta herself, though the exact nature of the Affliction seemed to change with one's Surroundings, and ultimately Vanished with as little Warning as it had begun.
The merchant Heddi also set out her Wares in a Tent upon the Town Green, offering a number of Trinkets to aid the Reveler in celebrating Leta's Holy Day, from Pendants to Masks to Sparklers in brilliant diamond-like hues. However, perhaps the other Oddities of the Daye had put the small Crowd there in a Sour frame of Minde, as no one seemed much inclined to deck themselves out for the Daye or engage in any other act of Revelry whatsoever, and exhibited an especial unaccountable Aversion to the notion of donning Ankle-bells. On the other hand, perhaps the natives of Kessia are so accustomed to playing the Fool the Rest of the Yeare that it is more natural to briefly put aside Folly and celebrate the Reversals of Carromario in Sobriety and Sanity instead.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
Being One Person's Impressions of the Winter Masque,
This Past Sixteenth Daye of Storme
Contributed by Sig. Dioscuro
With everyone's eyes cast toward Spring, the Winte Masque was an elegant reminder that all things sparkling with ice were not gone just yet. Snow fell and provided a soft blanket the night before and the air was crisp, bordering on rigidity with cold. Boughs of greenery were strung through the halls, arches of the same, all beautifully appointed with baubles and things that glistened in the light. Little treasures lay about for the watchful eye to catch: a pond full of wiggling fish, snowdrop trinkets, shiny copper leaves, cloved citrus, staghorn circlets, a variety of fibula clasps, and other shiny treats if one were game to pick them up.
Costumes and finery were in abundance and not just on the King and his court of nobles. Even the most common were adorned and costumed, masked and playing their part. One such part was Pitiful Pearl, her talent outshone only by her tragedy. Another part was the Dazzling Dancer, beauty personified, fiercely graceful. One can not forget Nimble Fingers, whose caresses on the strings made an otherwise acapella evening come alive with song. There were two little flowers who first entertained with song and dance and then with dramatics. Apart from these entertainments, a moment was taken to honor those fallen in battles past, respectful and somber and spoken by Winte's cold, blue sky, though his eyes seemed to be on the rising sun across the room. Of note, let it be known far and wide that the strongest knight can be felled by ruffled skirts and daring glances. And the night can be put in the books as a success, for even the most steadfast in dedication to unhappiness enjoyed the evening, yes, we all know you did.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
Acting Manager's Note: Due to the complete and utter Vanishment of all Persons charged with the weighty Responsibility of writing any and all Columns previously contained within the Pages of this Publication, we at the Eye have decided in a fit of Ire and Despair to Scrap the entire Lot, until such time as more reliable Persons may be found to handle them, or the previous Persons tracked down, clamped immediately in Irons, and affixed to their Writing-desks by Seige Gold chains. In the meantime, the Eye would like to offer to the Publick a brand-new Section, which we encourage the Reader to enjoy for the inevitably Minuscule amount of Time that it shall continue to appear here before its Author follows its Predecessors into eternal Oblivion and Perdition.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
THE FOOD CRITIC REVIEWS:
~ * ~ The Crossroads Inn ~ * ~
Today I am criticizing the Crossroads Inn, which is called just Breen's by most people. These are the same people who stand outside in the mud and pouring rain instead of going inside. I think this is perhaps a clue about what you'll find on the menu. Inside, the Inn's common room is grubby. The bar is grimy and looks like it was left out in the rain for too long. The chandelier has obviously been stolen from somewhere nicer. On the wall is a horrible painting of a naked daun and a weirdly tinted photograph of Breen with a famous noble who is nowadays known as a famous traitor. Near the garbage barrel is a lyre which Breen has apparently been trying to throw away for ten years, but nobody will take it so it just sits there waiting for some drunken person to put their foot in it.
1. Great Wolf Steak and Eggs (12 sovereigns)
This is the best wolf steak I've ever had: gamey, greasy, and stringy. If I can call this good wolf steak, you can imagine how bad wolf meat is normally. Whatever Breen does to make it edible is a mystery to me. There's a reason nobody makes steak out of wolves, and that reason is: wolf meat is pet food. Therefore this is either not actually made of wolf, and what we're really eating is rabu (which is worse in a lot of ways), or Breen has a deal with somebody to bring him old dead rotten wolves for cheap and then sells them to us for 12 sovereigns a plate. If the whole pelt is worth 10 sovereigns at the tanner, and wolf chops sell for 25 sovereigns at the butcher, something stinks (hint: it's the wolf steak). This is probably why Breen winks at you when he gives you the plate. Also, why aren't there any forks or knives! Maybe every Kivian has a knife in his sporran, but I don't want to have to slice this up with my good axe.
The eggs are sunny side up, which is the way everybody likes them. Edible but not amazing.
Taste: Bad. Ugh. If you have to eat wolf (you don't) go up to the Fenway and buy one of their nicely grilled wolf chops instead. Or go to the butcher in Kaezar and buy your own and cook it yourself. Then feed it to your dog.
Cost: High. Low for actual wolf meat (see above), but high considering you can buy wolf chops in Fenway for 9 sovereigns, probably because they can just buy them from some crazy old trapper wearing wolf skins for moccasins.
Alternatives: Lots. I haven't found anywhere you can buy just plain eggs. I guess Kessians have to dilute them with ham or they'll fall over and die of egg poisoning. You can get sunny side up eggs and smoked boar strips in Trapper's, which are delicious and much better than these. Go there instead.
2. Hot Cakes with Saxumberry Syrup (7 sovereigns)
A huge pile of gigantic hotcakes stacked up on a dinged and battered plate which might be made out of tin. I hope it's made out of tin, because if it's pewter you're sure to give yourself blacklead bowel-madness [Ed. - lead colic]. The saxumberry syrup is horribly sweet, which is another sign that makes me wonder if it has sugar of lead in it. But there are enough hotcakes on the plate to choke a molachadur, so there's that. Breen says to eat them while they're hot, and you had better listen or you will be trying to scrape gummy hotcakes out of gluey syrup with your fingers, because he doesn't give you any cutlery. Try folding or rolling them up.
Taste: Good, but suspiciously sweet (see above).
Cost: Fair. A good value for the amount of food you get.
Alternatives: None! If you want hotcakes you have to get them at Breen's. Somebody should tell the Gull House to make these, I'm sure they'd do them better.
3. Breen's Special Porridge (5 sovereigns)
A gloppy blob of savory porridge in a bowl. This is pretty much some kind of cereal boiled until you can't identify it and then served with chunks of salted boar mixed in. Surprisingly, this comes with a spoon. Breen says it sticks to your ribs, and it does, and also to anywhere else you put it. I got some on the bar and by the time I was done eating, my bowl was permanently stuck there.
Taste: If you like salted boar, I guess this is a winner.
Cost: Low. It's pretty cheap and will fill your stomach.
Alternatives: The barley gruel they serve on the Imperial Ships is less bloppy and better for somebody without teeth. Plus you can tell it's barley. Otherwise, just go anywhere else and buy some real stew.
4. Hot Crossroads Bun (5 sovereigns)
These come from the Half-Baked Bakery in Kemstead and I suspect they have to be reheated by the time they get to Kaezar, but they make the journey well enough to still be tasty after Breen serves them up. They have currants and various pieces of dried fruit in them, they're pretty big, and they are definitely hot. Your best bet is to watch for the haefdin delivery boy and buy them as soon as he leaves, because if you try and get one at midnight they're going to taste like week-old Teriaslin bootbread [Ed. -- waybread] (which is good for your teeth but hard on your stomach).
Taste: Good, but make sure you get a fresh one.
Cost: Low overall but kind of expensive for a single bun though.
Alternatives: The apple bread in the Apple Dumpling Inn is tastier but you have to put up with haefdin architecture to buy it, so possibly not worth the effort. Walk out to the Halfbaked Bakery in Kemstead and spend an hour there instead. You won't regret it.
5. Figgy 'n Hare Pasty (12 sovereigns)
I don't think Breen catches anything himself but rats, but if this is rat meat, I'm going to pretend it isn't. It's a big baked pastry filled with minced fruit and meat, which may or may not be rabbit or hare (see above). Despite the flavor (which is overall pretty good), it's crunchy at all the wrong times and has a strange skunky smell I can't place.
Taste: Tastes good if you ignore the texture and odor, so... hold your nose and mash it really well with the spoon you saved from your porridge.
Cost: You get what you pay for.
Alternatives: You can get better pasty from the Shady Rest in Never for 15 sovereigns, where it's real pork rather than polecat meat pretending to be coney. More locally, the Stumbling Dwarf has a good onion and cheese version for 15 sovs too. If you have to have a rabbit pasty, Shiman's Hostelry has one that's at least likely to be real rabbit, but it will set you back 15 sovereigns.
6. Vegetable Rabu Soup (10 sovereigns)
More broth than soup, with a lot of potatoes and a couple of rabu pieces bobbing in it like... drowned rabu. Dump the soup out and eat the bread bowl and pretend you didn't pay a whole royal for it. Look, if you are a Kessian I want to tell you about this wonderful invention they have nowadays which is called a COW. It goes "moo." Eat that instead. Don't eat rabu. (If you are not a Kessian I apologize, but not as much because you already know better than to eat rabu.)
Cost: There is no price you could put on this which would not be too high.
Alternatives: Anything with four legs that goes "moo," "oink," or "baa."
7. Crossroads Special Ale (15 sovereigns)
A fine sturdy ale which can call itself dwarven without being ashamed. It has a good sour twang, but the blue-green glass they serve it in does terrible things to the color, which should naturally be a deep dark gold.
Taste: Crisp, malty, and delicious.
Cost: 15 sovereigns for a pint of good dwarven ale is fair.
Alternatives: Down the street, Mariposa does a dark dwarven ale which is worthy of attention. It costs 5 sovereigns more and comes in a silver tankard. Generations of bar patrons have debated which one is better and blood has been spilled on both sides of the fight.
8. Imperial Whiskey (20 sovereigns)
It's not amazing whiskey, but it's not bad whiskey either. Compared to what you can get elsewhere, it's a little weak. Pleasantly crisp with a good amber color.
Taste: More burn than flavor.
Cost: 20 sovereigns is high for a glass I would have trouble fitting onto my thumb. Spend 5 more sovereigns and buy the smoother, more potent version at the Plum.
Alternatives: See above.
9. Sweet Saxumberry Juice (8 sovereigns)
After this I might be prepared to believe the saxumberry syrup is actually made from real saxumberries, but I have to ask: Why are all the glasses blue or blue-green? It makes the juice (which is supposed to be deep red) look like something from the bottom of the puddle out front.
Taste: Sweet and refreshing.
Cost: Fair. It's a decent size glass.
Alternatives: The Shady Rest in Never has saxumberry juice for 15 sovs. It tastes the same and the glass is the same size, so the Crossroads is a better value (for once).
10. Breen's Own Hot Toddy (15 sovereigns)
Why anyone would do this to a perfectly sane rum is beyond me. It has sugar in it, and a bunch of spices, and overall tastes like some kind of dessert tart drowned itself in a bucket of good rum.
Cost: Why would you even pay for this! Just buy a sweet roll and soak it in a glass of rum.
Alternatives: You can buy the exact same thing at Cappy's for 3 sovs. You can even watch him make it there out of water, whiskey, and rum. Why does Breen's cost 15 sovereigns more? (Hint: Look at the mug.)
The only people who should make a habit of eating here regularly are people who live here anyway and people who have only five minutes in which to get something to eat before going to or coming home from their exhausting jobs. It's in the middle of town, so you can't help walking past it on your way to anywhere, but if you're looking for a good meal worth writing home about, you're better off going somewhere else. Considered as a pub, the only thing worth recommending is the dwarven ale, which makes sense since a dwarf is the proprietor.
SHOULD YOU EAT HERE IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE? No!
SHOULD YOU DRINK HERE IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE? Yes, but only for the ale.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN LAURDIA AND THE TALLONEAN EMPIRE
~*~ Being an Account of the Journey to the Hostile Frontier of Civilized Lands,
~*~ And Beyond it into the Very Heart of Orcish Savagery;
~*~ Describing Also the Extraordinary Sights, Remarkable Creatures,
~*~ And Unusual Encounters Had Therein.
Part the Second: Entering Laurdia -- The Finest Band of Scouts -- The Sad Life Story of Mhaeryllynne Skysong D'Nostr'y'x -- A Boating Incident -- The Destruction of West Neff -- The Land of Infinite Variety
The morning after the skirmish with the Talone, Mister Haithcock and I bade our grateful hosts farewell and set off from the relative safety of the fort and off across the dusty plain towards the Laurdian border. The bodies of the slain orcs had not yet begun to smell of anything more than the sickly tang of too much blood spilt all in one place, but the sight of the carrion crows picking at the already sorry remains was a grim one, even being as it was the result of a great and quite fortunate victory over a ruthless foe.
I was not unhappy to leave the macabre scene behind, and enter instead upon a land that seemed quite free of any signs of sentient life at all, either the ordinary traces of those yet going about their humdrum lives, or the grim ones of those who had but recently given theirs. One almost expected some kind of primordial thrill to pass through one's core upon finally crossing the border from the relative civilization of Peregorne to the vast unknown of Laurdia, but of course there was nothing of the kind, nor indeed any more physical marker to indicate where one country ended and the other began -- only low rolling hills and picturesque woodland groves all around, no more nor less exotic or lovely than any other hills or groves glimpsed around the fort the previous day, though thankfully significantly freer of wargs.
We had only traveled about half the morning before encountering a small party which our friends at the fort had told us we might find some short ways beyond the border. This party was responsible for patrolling the area between the Wessumbrian garrison and the nearest Laurdian settlement, and for gathering intelligence on the latest movements of their intransigent orcish adversaries. Consisting of an aged and well weather-beaten man, his ill-nourished looking grandson, a former Nassedanian turned highway(wo)man turned ranger, and a gypsyish fellow who looked more accustomed to fighting off the advances of lovelorn women than orcs, it was not an especially prepossessing party; nevertheless, we had been assured by the garrison commander himself that there was no finer unit engaged in patrolling this particular section of this particular country at this particular time.
We planned to travel with this band some little distance across the plains until arriving on the banks of the river known rather harshly if descriptively as the Spitestream, from which point we had been told that it would be possible to engage the services of a certain poleman and his barge to carry us further westward to the village of West Neff, thereby sparing our feet some plodding and speeding us somewhat on our way. And indeed it was probably no more than a half-dozen miles to the river if indeed that far, yet the journey seemed at least twice as long due to the fact that the Nassedanian-highway-ranger judged this the perfect time, and Mister Haithcock and myself the perfect audience, to receive the entire story of her life up until this point.
This was proffered, or rather pressed upon us, following no greater encouragement or instigation than a vague passing question as to the distance to the peaks of the Fenwyllen Mountains whose hilly fringe we now skirted, but evidently this was somehow construed as a deep and insatiable desire to learn every last detail of the woman's history which, in spite of the segue, seemed to have nothing whatever to do with mountains. Rather, it seemed to be some kind of epic saga involving a great deal of personal calamity; long-lost parents and siblings deceased under tragic circumstances; star-crossed romances; at least one forced marriage; a bout of prostitution within the walls of some twisted yet strangely glamorous Nassedanian brothel; escape with the aid of a trusted ally turned at the very last minute to foe; the subsequent necessity of turning to a life of pickpocketing, poison, and highway extortion; a narrow escape from the hangman's noose; brief demonic possession followed by fantastical exorcism and the desire for atonement; and direct interactions with multiple deities clearly far more interested in the woman's life than we were.
Needless to say, it was with great relief that Mister Haithcock and I greeted the shimmering appearance of the river upon the near horizon. However, it was something of a disappointment when our approach resulted in the bright sparkle off the surface fading with our every step forward, until our arrival on the shore showed the once-glimmering river to be nothing but a broad muddy band whose mucky and snag-littered bed quickly revealed not only the inspiration for the name Spitestream, but also the reason that shallow flat-bottomed barges were the favored means of transportation along it. It was perhaps an even keener disappointment when Laurdia's finest decided they ought to continue on to accompany us to West Neff in case of attack by another small party of Talone thought to be in the vicinity, as at this point I felt I would much rather have been flayed slowly alive and roasted on an orcish spit rather than listen to another word of the ranger's story, since the sensations of each must have been largely similar, yet one would have had more hope that the former would eventually come to an end.
But as it turned out, the barge included among its cargoes a goodly quantity of Quarbok rum which our Nassedanian companion judged necessary to soothe her great distress after being compelled to recount so much of her tragic tale, such that before long she was stretched out snoring on the deck, her terrible cares banished by sleep. However, we were then somewhat delayed along our way when the poleman fainted and toppled into the river, being retrieved from the water only with the greatest difficulty and exertion. In the course of this rescue, which involved a pitiably small portion of rope and a much larger portion of yelling, flailing, growled threats, and conveniently misplaced hands, we lost another of our party to the river, as the gypsy found himself suddenly not only a great deal wetter but in possession of even blacker but significantly less sparkling eyes, as well as fewer shining white teeth than previously.
Due to the sequence of events that had led to the gypsy's now being in the river in the first place, I was overall inclined to express the opinion that he ought to stay there for some time to enjoy his swim and soothe his new-found injuries, and Mister Haithcock for his part seemed generally given to support this position. Nevertheless, for some reason beyond either my own or Mister Haithcock's understanding, the rest of the party insisted on rescuing the gypsy in turn, so once again there was a great scrambling and grappling and heartfelt cursing all around as the man was finally hauled back onto the barge. But the weather had held warm the last few days and the flow of the river was quite placid at this point, and also the malnourished youth proved himself an empath of some skill and not remotely fazed by the necessity of tending to the gypsy's ill-gotten wounds (so little fazed, in fact, that one had to wonder whether the boy's constitution was primarily a result of frequently expending his energies on the gypsy's behalf) so in any case there was no lasting harm sustained by any of our small party.
At last we neared the village of West Neff without further incident, but our arrival there proved very small comfort after all. The little outpost had been concealed for some distance by a low rolling escarpment that fell away only as we approached within bowshot, and thus our first indication that something was amiss was a sudden ominous scent of charred wood, blended with the even more ominous odor of burnt and spoiling meat. As the village became visible around the bend, it was revealed that it now consisted largely of scorched stone rubble pierced by the jagged charcoal ribs of roof-beams, and was now home to a black band of vultures and ravens who were engaged in picking the place clean of what remained of its former inhabitants. The additional bodies of a number of orcs sprawled alongside those of daun and sylvani dispelled whatever small doubt there might have been as to the cause of this horrific destruction.
It was at this point that the scouting band underwent a transformation as extraordinary as the blooming of the desert after a downpour, suddenly throwing themselves with great adeptness and presence of mind into searching the rubble for survivors, combing the landscape for signs of fugitives from the village as well as the tracks of the war party that had ravaged it, formulating plans for rebuilding and retaliation, and generally comporting themselves in a manner as different from their previous demeanor as a battle-hardened warhorse is different from a tottering newborn foal. Eventually it was determined that most of the village had escaped to a nearby refuge cut into one of those same rocky embankments we had just passed and thus the survivors yet outnumbered the dead, but still the blackened and twisted remains of those who had stayed to guard their retreat were a terrible and sobering sight. There being little we could do to aid the survivors, and our erstwhile traveling companions having managed their miraculous metamorphosis into the competent and efficient band of frontier soldiery they had originally been described as, Mister Haithcock and I resolved to leave this sad scene behind and continue on our way deeper into Laurdia.
The topography of this portion of Laurdia through which we passed next is quite distinctive, consisting of heavily eroded bluffs or buttes extending in all directions, their steeply sloping sides deeply incised with runnels and furrows presumably formed by the action of heavy rains over many years. Among these badlands may be discovered large quantities of bone, turned partly to stone and seemingly in the process of being washed out from the depths of the buttes. This bone may be found in all shapes and dimensions, with some of it appearing to have once belonged to creatures of truly immense size. A previous traveler to the region, the Lady Lucandra Sithannon of Iiera't'elt, conjectured that some of the creatures represented here must belong to the now largely vanished race of dragyns and their allies, once prolific in the region that is now Laurdia, and that these remains may even serve to indicate the existence of a more diverse body of draconic beings than are adequately captured in the stories handed down since ancient days.
The great beauty of this area must also be noted, for the bluffs themselves contain an extraordinary multitude of colors -- rusty reds, creamy tans, chalky ghost-greys, ochre, rose, even a lovely dark reddish-purple whose match I have not seen elsewhere. The rest of this part of the country being so flat apart from the buttes themselves, it was possible to ascend to the top of one of them (though with difficulty in some cases, their substance being not firm rock but rather a sterile crumbly dirt) and see for mile upon endless mile, at which point one receives the impression that it is the haze of distance alone that produces the sole obstacle to seeing to the very ends of Thrael.
This area is known to some of the local peoples as The Badlands, but such an appellation seems to do a great disservice to the overall variety and magnificence of the spectacle produced by this colorful expanse. I heard of another name given to it by a clan of long-departed Longshadow haefdin that once frequented the locale, which I am told translates from their obscure dialect to mean "the land of infinite variety," and this I find vastly more suited to the wondrous character of the region. In either case, it was a place both extraordinary and extraordinarily remote, and gave one the unshakeable impression not only of passing through a land but little touched by the civilizing hand of mortal man, but of being drawn ineluctably onward into a vast and nebulous Unknown.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Letters and Opinion
Acting Manager's Note: The following two Articles represent the latest in a series of published Pieces produced in Partnership with the Kessian Medical Society, who continue their efforts to educate and inform the Publick regarding their Plans and various medical Questions of Interest. Although Mister Quinnley has been entirely Disqualified as a credible Source due to his spurious Tale-mongering against Mister Tamerlaine, yet there is no reason for this to cast Doubt on his account of the Activities of his Society, and so his article on the Topic may still be found below. We also wish to reassure our Readership that Mister Aldan Talvir, for his part, remains an entirely Honest and well-respected Contributor in good Standing with the Eye, besides of course being an acknowledged Expert in his Field. The Reader should be alert to future Notifications in this Publication regarding the continued Status of the Society and its Activities.
As always, the Readership is additionally encouraged to write in with Letters and Articles on matters of Interest to themselves and their Community, to be considered for future Publication within these Pages.
An Update on the Activities of the Kessian Medical Society
Submitted By Marian Quinnley
As you may or may not be aware, there is a society here in Kessia that is still in its infancy. A small group of healers and other concerned people recognized the lack of a healer's group in Kessia and decided to commit themselves to filling that void. The freshly-chartered Kessian Medical Society is an organization founded with the intent of expanding and preserving knowledge of the healing arts. The Society was formed with the goal of creating a community and providing services to the people of Kessia.
We have been holding meetings since our conception in September of last year, many of these open to the public. Our first major project was to obtain a charter from His Majesty for recognition as an official organization. We spent many months completing a thorough charter and laying out the rules and structure for the Society. After a waiting period that had us holding our breaths, we were recognized as a formal organization in Kessia. With the charter under our belt we are able to focus more on activities, the first of which is the planning of Kaezar's first hospital, a place for advanced care of the infirm. We plan to provide as part of the structure a place for storage of medical articles and literature, along with an area to hold lectures on subjects of interest. Also included in the plans are a complete herbal garden to supply the hospital. Through the generous donations of several patrons as well as His Majesty King Vek, we have obtained a plot of land within the city and are developing the plans for its construction with the Royal Builder.
We will soon resume our regular meetings and I would like to stress that they are open to all interested people. Particularly once the hospital is open, we will need helpful hands willing to lend a caring touch to patients or aid in the maintenance and care of the garden.
Health Benefits of Herbal Teas
Submitted by Aldan Talvir
Many people enjoy the multitudes of herbal teas that can be found throughout Kessia, but few know of the health benefits that may come along with their favorite tea. Yes, that little cup of simple hot water and herbs can provide much more than a tasty beverage. So the next time you are experiencing a headache or an upset stomach, consider one of the remedies within this article.
The following teas can be made with herbs easily found in Kessia. Some of these teas can also be found prepared at some of the inns, taverns, and cafes located in Kaezar. Lumin is a flavorful fruit tea enjoyed by many, also known for its usefulness in helping the body resist mild illnesses and easing fevers; it can be found prepared at Pava's Tea Room and Mauve's Parlor at the Silver Plum. While tea made from the fruit of the raspberry plant is already quite popular, few know of the advantages of the admittedly less pleasant raspberry leaf tea, which can stimulate recovery from mild illnesses, heal mouth sores, and aid digestion. Although chamomile tea is already well known for its calming effects, it certainly should not be overlooked as a remedy for soothing the restless soul; it too can be purchased at Pava's Tea Room. Rosehip tea is useful for quelling upset stomach and stomach aches, vomiting, headaches, and coughing, and may be found at the Golden Quill Cafe in the Ghent Center. Sage, already known to many cooks for its flavor, is also quite useful as a tea which can help alleviate indigestion, stomach ulcers, sore throats, joint pains, and headaches. Rosemary, another favorite of cooks, can be a useful tea for treatment of mild illnesses, colic, and headaches. Peppermint tea is another that is well known for its flavor, but fewer are aware of its usefulness for relieving indigestion and mild illnesses. One last herbal tea to consider is nettle, which can alleviate the congestion, sneezing, and runny noses that plague many in the spring and autumn.
One of the greatest advantages of using herbal teas for their health benefits is that they are very easy to prepare. Herbal teas are generally prepared in one of two ways. The first method, likely the most familiar to the reader as well as the one used to prepare all of the teas mentioned in this article, is infusion or steeping. Using this method, one must simply chop the desired herb into small bits and stir into a cup or kettle of hot water; within a few moments the herbal tea will be ready to enjoy. The second method of preparation is known as decoction. Decoction consists of boiling the desired herbs in water until much of the liquid has reduced, then straining the resulting tea before drinking. This is a more advanced method that is generally used to extract oils and essence from more resistant plant materials.
This is only a small sample of the many teas that can be made from common herbs, some of which are relatively unknown for their healing properties. It is my hope, dear reader, that this article has enlightened you on some of the possibilities available with herbal teas. If you wish to learn more about herbal teas and how to obtain them, please consult the Kessian Medical Society, an organization devoted to education and preservation of healing knowledge.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
EYE ON KESSIA
Views of Our Fair Province
Through the Lens of a Camera-Obscura
[ The photograph reproduced in this nearly full-page print has been taken at the center of a common green, the wide road cresting between city and bay and sloping downward to the north and to the south. To either side, a low split-log fence encloses the large plot of lawn. Weeds grow around the feet of a pair of stone benches set along the west side of the road. A white-frosted cupcake is, quite inexplicably, lying on the ground not being eaten by anybody. Captured prominently in the picture are various people and entities that one might or might not recognize as Malo (sitting on a stone bench), Marziale (flying), an animated silver-edged teacup (leaping in a concerted effort to bite off at least one of Marziale's toes), Naisali (sitting on a tree branch), Aldan (loitering near a tree not taking much note of any of this), and a dark-colored oylet (sitting there oyletishly).
The print is simply labeled, "A Night on the Green, 4th Raine 649 AoD" as if this were the usual sort of thing one might expect to find on the town green on any given night. ]
Do you have a Photograph that you wish to share with your fellow Readers? Submit one to the offices of the Kaezarian Eye, along with a brief Explanation of the Shot, and our talented woodcut Artists will turn it into a Print for the next Edition of the News! All Photographs shall be returned as promptly as the Creative Process permits.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
NEWS OF THE WORLDE
By Minerva Sartchilde, Owner and Chief Editor
Thee dramatic ayle shortage in thee dwarfen realme of Durbra'thrum haf been attributed to a lacke of proper hoppes caused by an unnaturall colde spell. It was a surpryse to thys reporter to learne that such grayns could bee growne in the high mountain fastnesse, but shee was quickly enlyghtened by hushed tayles of fertyle valleys hidden deep in secluded glades where thee snowes never arrive in force. Reportes of oast-houses and hop-huts garrysoned like small fortresses against gangs of desperate brewyrs are surely but a rumor, although it is certyn that a number of local shrines to Aorre haf been demolished in retribution for thee eldrych storms which haf descended upon the grain.
In more southron clymes, it is reportyd by locals that those vyle beasts called "yathlu" haf sailed into thee Bay of Kawoshk on the isle of Tamin'los and there taken slaves from a number of settlements close to thee city of Withal'dun itself. Such a stryke is unprecedented in recordyd history, as most depredations haf taken place upon thee coasts of neighboring Rhe'Yubla and haf never before been able to penetrate thee forbidding terrayn of Tamin'los itselfe. It is theorized that thee relatively recent opening of the port of Withal'dun in pursuit of trayde hath likewyse exposed thee isle to those vile creatures who preyed so cruelly upon theyr larger neighbor.
A major new source of rubies haf been discovered in an unlikely locale in thee hilles near Pistoia. Political infyghting over control of thee land, which is sayd to be a parcell on no lesse than three estates owned by high-ranking chancellors of thee Caradeste Alliance, is so vicious that thee presynt kinge of Abyzanto, Brento thee Shorte, hath seized thee land personally and calmed thee overt bloodshed for a tyme. Thee deposed landowners are callyng for restitution. In additione to the reputed value of thee find, it is said that an associated high-quality deposit of sapphyres capable of rivaling thee fabled Isolan sappyhre in both beauteousness and clarity haf caused thee Doge of nearby Isola to issue harsh new trade decrees concerning both thee acquisitione and exportation of that city's signature gem.
In related newes, thys reportyr haf heard rumor of plague striking thee aforementioned city of Isola, with small pockyts of localyzed infection causing greate loss of lyfe, particularly among the tenant vintners who so diligently work thee hillsyde landes available for grape cultivation upon thee rocky isle.
Finally, in lyghter news, a minor scandall erupted in Aspidiske, Kysos i Pembri, off thee coast of eastern Indrejan, when it wath discovered that thee pheasant pyes served to visiting Kessian diplomats contayned horsemeat instead of bird flesh. Thee resulting imbroglio claymed the lives of no lesse than three undercookes and six serving maides in the ambassadorial residences, and if rumores are to be belived, a complete ban on the importaytion of Indjrejani horses into the Great Kivian Imperium for thee forseeable future. Whethyr this shall come to pass, no one yet knowes.
Our final itym is a story out of thee port city of Koje, wherein a riot was startyd durying a sumo-wrestling match, causying numerous injuries and some small damage to thee theatere wherein it was helde. Locale witnesses claymed thee match was interrupted by a "chawan no yurei," insisting that a flaming teacup ghoste was seen to run through thee arena, biting and howling in demonic fury as it drove thee spectators and wrestlers out of thee ring. Thys reportyr is, needless to saye, quite skepticale, but relates it here for the amusemente of her readers nonethelesse.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
AS EYE SEE IT
By Auntie Anony
Hello Hello Hello - Hafe you hearde!
So much to Tell!
So many New Faces! Aunty heares one Seigneur Santorini has broken it off with local chirurgeon Anolisse Thr'eyan in favor of a mail-order bride delivered direct from Ziguran -- by a handsome sea captain, no less. But no sooner did the lass arrive in Kaezar and the captain install her at the Silver Plum, than she slipped loose from her guardians and wandered the town without chaperone! The handsome Rafael was seen inquiring up and down the streets for his arranged beloved, quite at a loss. Is it legal to buy slaves in Kessia nowadays? For shame, Seigneur, Aunty thinks you could find a lass who would love you for you, and not because somebody packed her in a ship like unromantic cargo.
Speaking of Miss Thr'eyan, it looks like Aunty's favorite Jakobian Ashinara De'Alera has finally professed his love! Now that's a romantic courtship worth writing about. But what happened to Miss Aurorah, who the poor lad waited so faithfully for? She has returned from a long absence (of almost two years' time), escorted by none other than the (in)famous Vladimir Shadowlight. Aunty wants to know what vicious monster let her go to skin and bones, and why the poor girl keeps dragging herself around town in such a dreadful state. We're all hoping she doesn't become the Late Mrs. Shadowlight No. 3!
Whatever happened to the Quinnleys? First they're marrying (and marrying, and courting, and flirting) until Aunty's wondering who the next spouse or semi-spouse or fling of the month is going to be. Then Aunty turns around and they're all single again! Surely somebody has the dirt and will send dear Aunty a lovely letter, won't you dearies? She does know the ex-Mrs. Quinnley (the half-elf, not the re'har) quickly found solace in the arms of a Tain gentleman... or maybe 'in the arms' isn't quite right, since she seems to spend most of her time trying to pry him off her ankle.
So many strange Byra are seen in the streets of late. First there was Naisali and her habit of sleeping in trees with the handsome Mister Talvir. Camping is nice, dearies, and even nicer when you can snuggle. But in a tree? Only Byra! Now there's a strange red-headed Byra girl who's being chased around by an imaginary panther. Is it her spirit animal or is her craziness contagious?
And while we're on the topic of spirit animals, is the brutish Bariinco in the habit of carrying lady re'har away for dinner, or has Lady Fireworks found a love for the ages? She could use the big bruiser's help if she continues her habit of screaming at other nobles in the street. Or she could burn down half the Town Green while kissing and caressing a certain Mister whose name starts with Shadow and ends with a word that rhymes with "night"... so many choices!
Who is the strange little Tesugan with sharp teeth who follows that wispy Muir lass around like a shadow? Aunty can't imagine a less likely couple, but she heard the bitey one can be hired as a bodyguard... or asylum keeper... or courier... or anything you want, as long as you have the coin.
They say like goes with like and if it's true, it explains the Ryt'Tzar pair seen ambling about town in all their native regalia. Two little Ryt'Tzar, sitting in a tree-- no wait, that was the Byra, sorry! But next thing you know they'll be setting up a tent in the Town Green, ambushing passing caravans, and setting fire to Breen's.
Miss Nandrae made quite a scene at the Winter Masque, we hear, but so did "Miss" Niodevi (again! that's two years in a row!) and Miss Vivien, as the three of them were ejected from the dance by Ashinara and only allowed to return after they promised to stop pulling each other's hair. Girls, girls, girls. You can fight on stage at the Sea Serpent. They'll even pay you!
Did you see the performances at the Masque? Miss Vacendak and Mister Blackthorne stole the show with a saucy flamenco -- ai yi yi indeed. Not to be missed was the somber poem by Ashinara (even if it was a little dreary for a happy evening) and a bewildering but beautiful dance by two masked harlequins whose names Aunty won't reveal here, but trust us-- she knows!
Until next issue, Auntie sees all and tells moste!
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
@@@@@ WANTED @@@@@ - Men and Women of the Empire in good standing with the law who are interested in serving their fellow Citizenry by joining the ranks of the Imperial Guard. All applicants must be at least 16 years of age, not have any major crimes on the record within the last two years, and be willing to swear their allegiance to His Imperial Majesty.
- policing the cities and kingdoms of the Empire and upholding its Laws and Ordinances
- defending its Officials, and
- defending its Lands and Holdings against all enemies, both Foreign and Domestic.
A 5000 Sovereign signing bonus is authorized, and a generous monthly stipend included. All applicants should either leave notice at the Imperial Keep, or contact one of the 8th Regiment's officers directly.
WANTED: Able bodied, discreet individuals willing to travel. Expenses paid. Fee negotiable. Interested parties should contact Niall Blackthorne.
Seamstress Wanted! Muste be Handy wyth all manner of Laces as well as Dexteroys wyth silken fabrycs. Spinnyng Knowledge would Be Apprecyated. - Inquyre at Madame deSharlet
Horses Bought! We Pay Gud Pryces for Olde Horse and Mule Flesh. Get Ryd of Dobbyn Here! See Beil at Beil's Meat Market
BUYING. Oylets at 5 the Gryphon (200 sov per). Must be in Good Health and free of Defects. Deliver to: Mr. Sanglier, c/o Niall Blackthorne. Prompt payment upon delivery.
Greb of Greb's Gently Used Clothing Emporium is offering great deals on sturdy gently used clothing for the gentleman and lady. Located on Tael Road, near the Tael Bridge, Greb says, "Go look at the rest and then buy the best!"
Against all Odds and in the face of utter implacable Indifference on all sides, the Kaezarian Eye is still seeking talented, inquisitive, and DEDICATED writers! The Eye currently has Openings for General Reporters, as well as positions of a more Specialized nature, including Food Critic, Astrologer, and Out-of-Town Correspondent. Any Person hired by the Eye must be willing and able to produce at least one Article per Edition, and will receive a generous Salary from the timely completion of their Duties. All Persons interested in Applying for these positions, or having ideas for other Topics on which they might wish to write, are encouraged to speak with Siovanhe Starsong, acting manager.
Sune Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
NOTE FROM THE EDITORS:
Thanke you for purchasing, or Otherwyse obtaining, our newspaper.
Until the streets of Kaezar are paved, May the Publick Be Wary.
Minerva Sartchilde, Owner and Chief Editor.
Siovanhe Starsong, Head Reporter and Acting Manager.